Colombo Prawn Curry

30 Apr

This is a lovely curry, a little like a Parsi prawn patia, with a hot, sour, aromatic flavour and a touch of sweetness. I have called it colombo prawn curry because the flavouring comes from a spice mix called colombo. Colombo curry powder is common in France where an Indian curry powder like Madras is more common in England. It gets its name from the former capital of Sri Lanka where this mix originated. The spices were brought from Sri Lanka with plantation workers to the French West Indies, particularly Martinique and Guadeloupe. In the French West Indies this spice mix is used to make a stew or curry of meat. Here I make a much simpler and quicker dish using prawns.

Serves 2-3  Prep 5mins cooking 25mins

  • 2-3 tbsp oil, vegetable or corn
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • salt and cracked black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp colombo spice mix (my blend contains: ground cumin, coriander, caraway, fennel, bay leaves, and turmeric).
  • 1-2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 cup water
  • Fresh red chilli sliced or pickled jalapeno peppers to taste
  • 2 big handfuls cooked frozen prawns
Fry the sliced onions in a heavy pan with the oil and a good pinch of cracked black pepper and salt. Cook the onions slowly until they are very soft and starting to brown, this takes about 15 minutes, then add the garlic and tomato purée cook stirring until the aroma rises from the garlic then stir in the curry powder and fry for a minute. It is important to cook the tomato paste like this in order to bring out its sweetness. Add a cup of water and the chilli, as much or as little as you want for your taste and heat tolerance. I like to use hot pickled jalapeno peppers in this recipe as they add an extra sour note. If not using add a little vinegar or some lemon juice at the end. Cook for around 10 minutes keeping an eye on it to make sure the sauce does not catch or get too dry just add a little more water if it does. Cook until the oil separates from the sauce and rises to the top then add the prawns stir a few times and continue to cook for only a minute or two until the prawns are heated through and ready to serve.
Cooks TIP Do not over cook the prawns they need to be only just cooked. This is a good dish to make ahead of time so its great for a dinner party. You can make the sauce and add the prawns at the last moment just before serving or add the prawns and set aside immediately where they will soak up all the flavours of the sauce then heat the dish when you are ready to serve. You can also use raw prawns and cook them in the sauce before serving.
Note Colombo spice blends can vary but tend to contain at least 5 of the following: cumin, coriander, fenugreek, caraway, nutmeg, cinnamon, fennel, black pepper, brown mustard, turmeric, bay leaves and cloves. Some recipes also call for ground rice in the mix but that really is just adding bulk and I don’t use it. It does not normally contain chilli powders and is a fairly mild but aromatic curry powder which makes it very versatile in the kitchen. You can buy  Epices Colombo also known as Caribbean Curry Powder or Colombo spice mix easily in France or you can find an online spice retailer such as Seasoned Pioneers  or The Best Possible Taste which deliver worldwide or better still make you own.

How to Preserve by Heat Processing

15 Mar
Heat processing is a form of preserving foods by putting hot, warm or cold foods into a container and heating until any bacteria that might be within the food or container is killed and a vacum is achieved. It is a very useful technique for the kitchen gardener, no glut of produce need ever go to waste and can be stored for times when there are less fruit and vegetables available fresh from the garden or market.
HEAT PROCESSING
The simplest way to achieve this on a domestic scale is to use glass jars, with lids and heat the jars and their contents in boiling water, the ‘hot bath method’.
Preparing the food
Food can be processed from cold or hot. I only use the hot method, cooking the fruit of vegetables before bottling, as this is the most reliable way to ensure food does not spoil and can be stored safely.
Jars 
You need to use jars that can be heat processed such as; ‘mason’ jars which come with a two piece lid, a domed cap that fits tightly on the neck of the jar and a screwband which fits over the cap and is screwed down onto the jar, kilner type jars which have a clamp down glass lid sealed with a rubber ring, or simple glass jars with special lids. I buy 250g jars from our local agricultural store that sell different types of lids including those for heat processing. The jars can be re-used as many times as they remain sound. Jars must be scrupulously clean and without any flaws, cracks or chips as any flaw could result in the galss shattering while being heated.
Lids
The lids are the important bit, when heat processing the lids need to allow for the expansion of air and liquids and then the function to tighten or lock to seal and make a vacum.  The basic lids are those with a circular dimple which become depressed during the process indicating that a vacuum has been achieved. There are also 2 part lids and clamp lids. It is essential to purchase new lids or seals for each use.
Filling Jars
Pour the hot food e.g. tomato sauce, passata, salsa, cherry compot whatever it is into the prepared jars, leaving a 1cm gap at the top, screw the lids on well but not too tight.

Equipment
There are special heat processing pans available but I find using a pasta pan with a draining insert works just as well particularly if  I am only processing small batches. The pan I have was not expensive, I bought it in Ikea at least 10 years ago, and it will fit 5 x 250g jars comfortably.
Heating
Carefully place the jars in a single layer around the sieve part of the pan then lower into the outer pan. Fill with hot water to 2 inches bellow the lids, and bring to the boil. Once boiling cover with a well fitting lid and set a timer for 15-20 minutes. When the timer goes off raise the draining insert and set down with the jars inside. Use a towl to protect your hands from the heat, tighten all the jars. If used kilner type jars adjust to final lock down position. Set aside to cool. The airlocks in the lids should all depress as they cool which indicates a full seal. If any do not depress repeat the process.
Store
Label and store the jars in a cool dark place. They will keep for several years
Warning
If dimples in the lids rise again this is a sign that air has entered the jar and the food may have spoiled. Do not consume as there could be a risk of botulism.
Note Make sure you follow the instructions that come with the type of jars you have purchased, as each jar type will have its own sealing mechanism.

Chickpea Pancake (Farinata)

14 Sep
This is an Italian street food I first tried in Liguria, close to the southern coast of France. A kind of savoury pancake made from ground chickpeas made into a batter with water and seasoned with olive oil, black pepper, salt and sometimes with rosemary. It is a brilliant snack food and perfect for those who have an allergy to gluten and cannot eat wheat, particularly in pasta-eating regions where avoiding gluten can be a real challenge.
Traditionally Farinata is cooked in a wide flat copper pan with a 4-5 cm lip in a hot wood fired oven. In Nice, just back across the border in France, a similar dish called socca is made with the same ingredients and cooked in an oven or in a skillet over flames. I’ve never tasted the French version but this is what the Ligurian one tastes like. I got the recipe from the back of a packet of chickpea flour i bought in Liguria and have tweaked it to taste more like the local vendors.
  • 250g chickpea flour (about 2 cups)
  • 750g water (about 3 cups)
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • Sea salt (1 tsp)
  • Cracked black pepper (1/2 tsp)
  • Rosemary minced (optional)

Put the ckickpea flour in a large bowl or jug, one with a spout if you can so it will make pouring easier, add the water beating as you go. Beat the mixture until you have a lovely smooth batter then add the salt & pepper and oil. Set aside for an hour or more to allow the batter to mature it can be left overnight. Heat the oven to very high and put a metal baking tray or a large paella pan into the oven to heat. If you have one, a paella pan is the nearest thing to the sort of pan used in Liguria.

When the pan is really hot lift out and drizzle with olive oil, to coat all over, then pour in enough batter to cover the surface of the pan in a thin layer, tipping side to side to ensure an even cover. Sprinkle with a little more salt and pop it straight back into the oven. Cook for 10-20 minutes, depending on how hot you can get your oven, until the edges and bottom are brown and crisp and the top is starting to take some colour. remove from the oven and tear or cut into pieces.

Sprinkle with a touch more of salt and pepper then serve with a glass of chilled wine or beer and you have a lovely start to the evening. If you have friends round you might want to put the next batch straight in the oven, this stuff disappears quickly. The quantity here makes enough batter for 4 batches cooked in a paella pan

Variation If you don’t want to use an oven it works fine on a stove top, i find using a heavy cast iron skillet works best. Once it is crisp on the bottom, turn it over and cook to just colouring on the other.

Tips for best and most authentic results make sure that the oven is as hot as it will go, the pan you use is very hot and use plenty of olive oil and salt. My oven will only go to 240c but with fan assisted gets pretty hot, hot enough to get the farinata just right. For really crispy ones make the layer of batter as thin as you can.

Spiced Veg Salad (Cachumber)

12 Sep

This spiced salad of raw vegetables is known as Cachumber, Kachumber or Kachmbar in Southern India and Koshumbir or Koshimbir in Western India. These small side dishes of seasoned raw vegetables can be as simple as chopped onion seasoned with lemon and salt or a complex mixture of many vegetables and fried spices. This one is on the more complex end of the spectrum and is really delicious, it adds a lovely crunch to any meal. Choose your own variety of vegetables, whatever is in season, and feel free to experiment with other spices.

  • Onion
  • Tomato
  • Peppers (sweet or hot)
  • Carrot
  • Cucumber
  • salt
  • lemon juice
  • Herbs; Coriander leaf (optional), garlic chives (optional)

Seasoning for 2-3 cups of vegetables

  • 1-2 tbsp descicated coconut
  • 1/2-1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2-1 tsp whole cumin seeds
Finely chop the vegetables, for this recipe i usually do about 2-3 heaped tablespoons of each vegetable, aiming for about 2-3 cups of vegetables altogether.
Heat 1 tbsp of oil and when hot add the mustard and cumin seed then add the coconut. Stir and lift off the heat as soon as the mustard seeds crackle and the aroma from the coconut rises. Stir the fried spices into the freshly chopped vegetables add the juice of half a lemon or more and salt to taste. Leave for 1 hour before serving so that the flavours and juices of the vegetables mingle. Serve with a little extra coconut sprinkled on top.
Variation freshly grated coconut would be great but as i cannot grow it here i keep some bought unsweetened descicated in the pantry.
For other Koshumbir type recipes have a look at:

Summer Pickle (Gujarati)

12 Sep

Crisp, fresh, summer vegetables tossed in a sour-pungent dressing of crushed mustard seeds, lemon juice, turmeric, and asafoetida. This is an instant Indian pickle that comes from Gujarat where it is also served as a salad. This pickle or salad is best made just before serving but it will also keep for a couple of days in the fridge, so it can be made ahead of time.

  • 2 sweet carrots
  • half a small cucumber
  • 2 – 4 hot green chillis, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 6 or 7 cherry tomatoes or physalis
  • 1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida (Devil’s Dung)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp chilli oil
  • 1 small clove garlic (optional)

Peel and cut the carrots into thin 2cm-ish batons, peel the cucumber and cut into quarters lengthwise, remove the seeds and cut into bite size slices. Put the carrots and cucumber in a bowl with the salt and set aside for 15 minutes then pour off any liquid that forms. Halve the tomatoes, slice the chillis and crush the garlic add these to the salted veg along with the rest of the ingredients toss well to coat and it is ready to serve.
Variations
Other vegetables I would use any other sweet fresh crisp vegetables including; turnips, radishes, French beans, sweetcorn.

Recipe Source
This recipe is based on the Cucumber & Carrot Pickle in Tarla Dalal’s Book Achaar aur Parathe I have changed it slightly by adding yellow cherry tomatoes and using chilli oil instead of mustard oil, I also added crushed garlic and in future I would add more chilli and other summer veg.

This recipe was originally posted on www.masdudiable.com on 31/7/2008.

Lemon Rice (Indian)

11 Sep

Basmatti rice is one of my favourite types of rice, I love the fragrant taste and it is strong enough to take all kinds of seasoning and re-cooking. In this method the rice is first cooked with salt and turmeric and then cooked for a second time with a final fry of mustard seeds, curry leaves and cashew nuts and finally seasoned with lemon juice and lemon zest. It can be cooked in one go or the basic rice can be re-cooked with seasoning making this a great left-overs recipe.

  • 1 cup Basmatti rice
  • salt
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 6-8 curry leaves
  • small handful of cashew nuts
  • 1 lemon

Wash the rice in several changes of water and put in a pan with one and a half times the volume of water and slat to taste. I usually use a little cup that i know makes just enough for 2. Bring to a brisk boil then turn down the heat and cover, tightly and cook the rice for 10 minutes.

When the rice is cooked do not lift the lid but set the rice aside for a further 7-10 minutes to continue cooking in its own steam. Remove the cover after 7 minutes and lightly fork over the rice, cover again for 3 mins if it is still a little hard. The rice is now ready for the next stage. It can be served as it is or seasoned following this recipe or you can let it cool and save it for later.

Seasoning

heat a little oil in a small pan and add the cashews, mustard seed and curry leaves when the mustard seeds start to crackle tip into the rice and gently mix in along with the juice and the zest of the lemon, as much or as little as you like.

Spiced Potato Burgers

10 Aug
Potato cakes or burgers like these are sometimes referred to as chops by Indian cooks and are one of the most popular chaat or snack foods of India where they are called Aloo Tiki, Tikkia, Tikiya or Tikya. I’ve done a fair bit of experimenting with the idea of these cakes and this is my version of them. They are pretty versatile and make a great snack, starter, lunchbox or finger food.
Makes 6 – 8 cakes
  • 3 large potatoes (cooked)
  • pinch sea salt
  • pinch ground black peppercorns
  • pinch cumin seed (dry roasted & ground)
  • pinch ground chilli
  • 2 green chillis (de-seeded and minced)
  • small handful coriander leaves minced
  • 1 spring onion, minced or grated
  • grated ginger (optional)
  • oil for frying
  • fresh dried breadcrumbs to coat
Peel the potatoes and crush with your hands into a bowl, you don’t want a puree but a chunky mash. Season generously and to taste with salt, pepper, chilli and cumin, mix well then stir in the green chill, onion and coriander leaf and some ginger if using.
Divide the mixture into 6 to 8 portions depending on how large you want the cakes. Squash the mixture together and shape into balls. Flatten each ball of potato mixture into a cake the shape of a small burger. 
To cook 
There are four ways of cooking potato cakes like these:
  1. Shallow fry; in a frying pan or on a griddle with a little oil.
  2. Dip the cakes in beaten egg and shallow fry as above.
  3. Dip the cakes in beaten egg then coat in dried breadcrumbs and shallow fry as above.
  4. Dip the cakes in beaten egg then coat in breadcrumbs and deep fry.
Update Version 3 also works really well baked in an oven 180c for 15 minutes.
Personally I find the cakes dipped in egg then dried breadcrumbs and pan fried with a little oil are by far the best or as above baked, they hold their shape well and develop a lovely crisp outer shell which makes them more portable and suitable as snack, lunchbox, or finger food. The uncoated ones soak up too much oil, the egg coated ones make the cakes taste eggy and a bit soft and I try to avoid deep frying. I love fried food, so once I’ve got a pan of oil on the stove I am lost, I’d be eating fried food breakfast, lunch and dinner. It must be my Scottish upbringing that gives me the compulsion to deep fry everything.
I also like the cakes stuffed with a minty onion relish before being coated and fried. Choose your own method and cook until golden brown on both sides. Serve sprinkled with a little chaat masala or with a tomato chutney or tamarind chutney and an onion relish.
Variations on spicing i sometimes add grated ginger when not stuffing and a pinch of garam masala for a warm zing. Although this is an Indian inspired recipe you can use any spices you like, they don’t have to be Indian flavours and you can use parsley or other fresh herbs with great results.
Gluten free version For those who cannot tolerate wheat instead of the breadcrumbs use crushed rice vermicelli noodles, put them in a bag to make it easy to crush, or use rice or chickpea flour to coat.
Cooks Tip this is a great recipe for using left over boiled or baked potatoes. If you are cooking the potatoes from scratch i think you get the best flavour out of them by boiling whole with the skins on, in salted water, then peeling when cooled. The potatoes will keep for several days in the fridge and the cakes seem to be better with potatoes kept for at least a day before using.

Noodles with Peanut Dressing

8 Aug

Noodle salads are perfect summer lunch fare they also travel well so they make excellent picnic or lunch box food. This salad is dressed with crushed peanuts and oriental seasonings along with fresh cucumbers and mangetout from the garden, but you can use whatever is in season.


Serves 2  Prep and cook time 10 minutes

  • 2 servings of Soba or other oriental noodles
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • green onions or garlic chives
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar or honey
  • 1-2 tbsp rice vinegar or lime/lemon juice
  • chilli (fresh, ground or flaked) to taste (optional)
  • roasted peanuts, crushed
  • vegetables such as cucumbers and lightly cooked green beans or mangetout

In a large pan of water. Boil the noodles, for 3-7 minutes depending on the variety and packet instructions, until just cooked. Meanwhile slice the onions and put into a wide serving bowl along with the remaining ingredients, mix well to dissolve the sugar. When the noodles are cooked drain and toss in the dressing mixture. Serve hot or cold, and for a robust meal with some korean small dishes such as Green Onion Relish or Beansprout Salad .

Cooking Tip. It is important to slightly under cook the noodles when making this salad and any vegetables raw or lightly or cooked to keep the ingredients fresh so they are at their best served cold.
Noodles soba are a Japanese noodle made from buckwheat which comes in a number of varieties and flavours, the ones use in the picture above are flavoured with une plums, you could also use rice or mung bean noodles or even whole wheat spaghetti makes a great alternative.

Spicy Chicken Wings (Thai)

7 Aug

Delicious wings marinated in coriander seed and leaf along with chilli, lemon, garlic and black pepper. Cook over coals or under a grill and cook until crisp. Serve as a main dish with rice or salad or one or two pieces as a starter.

Marinade for about 600g of chicken.
  • 4-6 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp pepper flakes
  • 1 tp coriander seeds, crushed
  • lemon zest & juice of half lemon
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • coriander leaf, minced
  • 2-3 tbsp fish sauce (optional)

Preparation
Prick the chicken pieces with a knife or sharp fork to help get the flavours into the wings and lay in a dish. Mix the marinade ingredients together and pour over the chicken and rub into each piece. Leave in a cool place to marinate over night or for at least 4 hours.
Cooking
  1. Barbecue When the barbecue coals or grill are good and hot, put the pieces over the hot coals.  Turn and brush with any remaining marinade until the chicken is cooked and the skin is crisp, about 10-15 mins depending on the size of the chicken pieces and heat of the coals.
  2. Grill Cook under a hot grill for 15-20mins, checking and turning, until the chicken is cooked and the skin is crisp.
  3. Oven Roast Put pieces on a rack over a baking tray and brush with marinade. Bake in a preheated oven 220c/Gas 6 for 15-20mins until the chicken is cooked through and golden brown.
Cooks Tip
Mix up the chicken and marinade in a plastic bag as it will make it easier to rub the marinade in and to carry it out to the barbecue.

Crispy Kelp Appetizer (Korean)

6 Aug

Kelp, also known as kombu, is the the wide flat type of seaweed that is commonly found around the sea shores of Europe.  It is used to make stocks and as a vegetable. Here i have deep fried dried pieces and seasoned it with a Korean inspired mixture of mild chilli powder, soft brown sugar and sesame seeds.  The salty seaweed balances the sugar and the chilli powder gives a lovely pungent warm tone and the sesame seeds a nutty.

Deep Fried Kelp with a Korean style seasoning

  • Dried Kelp seaweed cut into finger food size
  • pepper flakes
  • soft brown sugar
  • lightly toasted sesame seeds
Deep fry the seaweed in a small pan of hot vegetable oil in batches and drain on paper. Be careful not to burn the seaweed or it will taste bitter so stand over it and lift out with a slotted spoon as soon as it expands and crisps. Mix the remaining ingredients to taste, make sure there is a nice balance of heat and sweet and sprinkle over the hot seaweed, toss to coat well and serve with drinks.